By smatusky All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Adventure

Chapter 15 - Somber Changes

“Ashelle!” I called as she ran into the waters along the shore. She rushed up to me.

“Yes, my Queen? Why don’t you come into the water with Ally and me? It’s nice!”

“No, Ashelle. He must prepare for our trip across the Barrens. We’re leaving today.”

“I thought we were supposed to wait for the ships to arrive.”

You will wait for them, Ashelle. Ally will be coming with us.”

“What? I won’t leave him,” she said defiantly. Ashelle was fifteen now and progressively exhibited stubbornness. “He needs me to take care of him, like the time he got hit on the head.”

“Ashelle, it will be safer for you to stay here with the others. But Uncle Ally will be needed on our trip in case we have any problems with the potion. Now tell him to pack!” I left with little time to pack for myself. Although Ashelle was angry, I knew she would be safer staying with the other children.

Lord Raine walked up to me with three people behind him, one was Autumn. “This is Browback,” he said, gesturing to the giant on his right. “And this is Kumulla. You already know Autumn.” I nodded to her. “We will accompany you and your alliance through the Barrens, to the Miserlain people.”

“We?” I asked. “You mean you will be going also?”

“Yes.” said Lord Raine.

“But won’t your people need you?”

“They need to be safe also, and I cannot protect them from these shifty protectors, so I will go with you. I must do all I can to help them.”

“I understand how you feel. Thank you, all of you. We are packing now and should be able to leave within the hour.”

“We await your departure.” Two carts were loaded behind the giants ready to be hauled by Browback and Kumulla.

Once our horses were ready and the extra supplies provided by the giants were packed, we followed Lord Raine north out of Gurgand. Before long we were in the Barrens, but this time we carried plenty of food and water. Also, the reduction of people and animals made our travels easier.

During one of our frequent stops, we listened to a conversation between Lord Raine and Gullane.

“My great grandfather told us how the Barrens was once lush and beautiful.” said Lord Raine. “It sprawled every direction housing millions of plants, insects, and animals. Then it slowly began to die, drying up with no cause. My grandfather decided to uncover the mystery of the dying forest, so he headed north, just like us.”

“What did he find?” asked Gullane.

“He found the Miserlain people. Although they are clever, they have no interest in how they affect the land. They cut off rivers flowing south into the Forest of Villian, using the waters for themselves. The Barrens is what the ancients once called Villian, before it turned into a wasteland.”

“Villian?” Riley cried out. “This is Villian?” Gullane and the other giants nodded. “No wonder I didn’t recognize this place. Villian was not like this at all. I left here before the land changed. It was beautiful, comfortable, and alive. This change is dreadful and amazing. , maybe I’m not forgetting after all. It has changed so much here I didn’t recognize it.” Riley was ecstatic. The awful news about the gave him hope that he was not losing the memories of his former life.

The next day we came across an animal that changed my view of the world. It seemed a simple moment, but the result of my action would cause a rift within my consciousness. Imagine a pebble falling into a pond. Waves radiate outward by the force of the stone hitting the still waters, then the energy of the waves disrupt millions of sand particles resting peacefully along the shore.

“What is that?” I asked Riley, pointing to something white in the sand. It was lying close to what had been a trickling stream. I left the others and walked over to a white crane motionless in the sand.

“It’s probably just a bird that migrated here from the north. It can’t survive without water, though.” I touched the bird while flies invaded its body. “Leave it alone . Let’s go.”

“No, it’s still alive. I won’t leave it here.”

“It’s probably almost dead. Don’t heal it. It will make you sick. You’ve told me before that you shouldn’t heal anything too close to death. Come on!”

Riley was insistent, but I had already begun healing the crane. Soon I became hungry and thirsty. My hands dried up while I rested them on the bird’s feathers being tossed around in the breeze. My nourishment poured into the crane and it began to stir.

“!” Riley ran up to me and pushed me off the bird. I was too weak to stand. “You can’t save everything!”

“Let me talk to it.” I said weakly as the crane stood tall and healthy.

“Where are the others?” asked the crane. “We have always come here. I don’t see them. I don’t see anything, but this is where I am supposed to be. Can you help me find the others like me?”

I told him telepathically that I would try to help though he must first travel north with us. In the meantime, he should rest and get well. The crane, called Sulimi, followed us back and perched himself on our wagon.

Riley carried me and Sir Edward helped me on the cart. “What did you do?” asked Edward. Riley’s explanation agitated him. “Are you mad?” cried Edward. “You can’t save everything!”

“That’s what I told her!” said Riley with as much bluster as Edward.

“Thirsty, I’m thirsty, hungry.” I croaked. The cart began rolling. I was famished and wanted to sleep. After eating and resting for awhile, I turned to Riley who was guiding our cart. “Why does Sulimi come back to the Barrens if there is nothing left for him?” I knew very little about animal behavior.

“Because it is his instinct to return to his elders’ homeland. You see, , no matter how many animals you heal they rely on instinct and cannot adapt to the changing world as easily as humans.

“Animals are predictable, which is why protectors can understand them. Animals will not run after a predator or just fly any old place on a whim. They are part of the world and follow its patterns, but humans are detached from their surroundings and care more about killing each other or conquering the land around them. Sulimi will always return to what he considers his home, even if all his kind has died. He knows nothing else. Protectors have tried to keep this cycle of nature working for eons, but it will change. The world won’t stay balanced forever.”

Riley’s words strangled me inside. I wanted to save the animals that would never adapt to their changing world. However, he was right. Things must die, and protectors have seen this for ages. I happened to be just learning this lesson, learning about the harshness of life.

My head began to hurt, and as soon as the caravan stopped for the evening I went to Rhaida for help. She went to her cart and began tossing things around, looking for leaves to brew tea for my headache.

“Ouch!” We heard a voice from under the bags.

“What’s this?” I stepped into the cart with Rhaida.

“That hurts! You’re standing on me.” Ashelle threw back a few bags and a large canvas covering her.

“Ashelle! What are you doing here?” I was so angry. A bag ignited next to Ashelle, and Rhaida quickly put out the flames with a blanket. I stared at the smoldering bag and realized I had unwittingly started the fire with my magic.

“I’m sorry, Ms. Crystal. I just couldn’t leave him. Please don’t make me go back, please don’t hate me. I…I’m really sorry.” Her words slowed down, clearly lacking a good excuse for stowing away.

“Rhaida, tea please.” My head throbbed. I did not speak with Ashelle because I was afraid I would ignite her by accident, and I went to our covered tent. I lay down on my blanket and placed a damp cloth across my head. Rhaida soon entered with a cup of tea.

“I wish I didn’t know about anything,” I grumbled to Riley who sat next to me. “The potion, the plague, the protectors…anything else starting with the letter ‘P’.”

“Palleo?” Riley asked. I lifted my cloth then pointed my finger to him as if to say, you’ve got the hang of it.

“Wish I were a lost child without a care in the world. I guess you’re right, Riley.” I lay back down after sipping my tea and placed the cloth over my eyes. “I can’t save everything. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother.”

“Because it is your nature.” He yawned and lay next me.

“You think George would play for us? I’d really like to hear something nice.” Riley left and returned with George, his talented hands clutched the pretty brown flute.

Magic seemed worthless at that moment compared to the sounds coming from George’s flute. It was well into the night before I fell asleep while listening to his soft musical tunes.

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